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The Anatomy of Love

Chapter Text

You’re smiling and they’re laughing as you swing their hands that are clasped tightly in yours. They were your best friends and as you skipped down the street with them it felt like you had all the time in the world. Yet, soon enough the time comes and you’re standing outside looking at a man in a uniform who seems like a stranger, except he’s wearing the face of one of your best friends.
Tears pricked the corner of your eyes and you hugged Bucky tightly. “Time flies, Buck.” You whispered your voice hoarse with repressed tears.
He gave you his trademark grin, “But only when you’re having fun, (y/n).” He wiped the couple tears that spilled over and kissed your cheek.
“Be safe out there,” you pressed your hand to his cheek and let him nod before watching him walk away. You heard Steve come up behind you and reached back a hand to lace your fingers with his.

So time rolled on slower than before but it kept going until once again another piece of your happiness was being ripped away.
“Time waits for no man, (y/n)!” Steve tried to make you understand but all you heard was how your other best friend was leaving you behind.

You cried and begged but in the end you clung to Steve as tight as you clung to Bucky. “Please make sure you both come back to me.”

“Promise, doll.” Steve murmured into your hair his hands stroking your back. “I’ll make sure that jerk comes back with me.”


Then the time comes where they gave you the flags. First Bucky’s. And then Steve’s. Howard and Peggy tried to explain to you how they did it for their country… but all you heard is how they died. So when Howard came to you with an idea it didn’t offer you hope… it offers you an out.

“You could die doing this (y/n)!” Peggy tried to talk you out of it. “It’s an experimental test that could kill you.”

Shrugging you continued to let the nurse prep you. “It doesn’t matter Peggy.”

“But you still have so much you can do with your life.” She grabbed your shoulders and shook you. “Think of what’s at stake here.”

“They say, time heals all wounds,” you gave her a half smile that doesn’t quite reach your eyes. “And if this works I’ll have all the time in the world. Or I’ll be all out of time. Either way this is happening so prepare yourself for it.”

Her face crumpled and she hugged you, “I don’t want to lose you too.”

“You won’t,” you whispered and then they’re wheeling you away.

Howard’s face was both delighted and concerned as he looked down at you strapped to the gurney, “Are you ready?”

You nodded.

“Are you sure?” he’s truly worried for you and it’s somewhat endearing but at the same time it made you chuckle.

“All any of us want is more time.” You told him as the nurses and other scientists began to hook you up to the machines. “Time to stand up. Time to grow up.” It was chaos as they inseted needles into you and attach little sticky things to your head. But through it all Howard stood and held your hand while they worked, a smile on his face as he listened to you talk.

“Is that what you’re after?” he asked.

You simply smiled and leaned back so they could secure your head as you mumbled, “Time to let go.”

That’s all you ever wanted –


Chapter Text

You’re sitting in a café sipping a caramel latte with an extra shot of foam and cinnamon sprinkled on top when Clint arrives. He gives you that stupid grin that he only ever shows those closest to him and practically prances over to you once he’s gotten his coffee.

“Well, well, well” his eyes twinkle as he sits down. “there goes the neighborhood.”

With a roll of your eyes you lean across the table to kiss his cheek with a huff. “Shut up you.”

He takes a sip of his drink and sighs, “Nat said you’d decided to come to New York for a little… Something about a relaxing holiday away from the heat. Where were you?”

“Oh here and there mostly to the south obviously,” you reply with a wave of your hand. “That’s not the important part though.”

Clint raises a brow in obvious interest, “Do tell.”

Oh Clint. The two of you gossip worse than teenage girls and meeting for drinks and dishing about top secret information is the norm since you became close friends. Naturally Nat usually comes but she’s much stingier about giving gossip than she is about listening so she doesn’t get invited as often. Though you and her do get manicures together more than either of you will admit to Clint.

You lean forward, “Well the obvious is that you’re now an Avenger and all that fancy bullshit.” Giving a haughty sniff you continue, “But the real issue is how you haven’t confessed your feelings for a certain someone yet!”

Vermilion is the first word that pops into your head as you watch Clint blush. It’s endearing to watch but also makes you roll your eyes at his embarrassment. “It- it’s,” Clint begins to stutter. “I mean… Sure, bu- but it’s not.”

“Uh huh real articulate,” you snort as you take long sip of your latte. “Just… I want you to promise me something.”

Clint meets your gaze, “What?”

“If you love someone, you tell them.” Your voice is firm and steady but your eyes hold guilt and sadness. The kind of look that Clint has seen you wear before but never questioned because anytime he or Nat does you vanish for months. “Even if you’re scared that it’s not the right thing. Even if you’re scared that it will cause problems. Even if you’re scared it will burn your life to the ground.”

Reaching out you grasp both his hands in yours and squeeze them tightly. “You say it, and you say it loud. And then you go from there…” Releasing his hands you lean back.

Giving you a sheepish smile Clint answers, “I think I can do that.”

You nod, “Good.”

Chapter Text

Somehow you always got stuck in these situations. Here you were standing in an elevator going down to the ground floor when a woman gets in. You smile politely and make sure that you’re standing an elevator appropriate distance apart and watch the numbers slowly count down. That’s when you hear it. First, it is only a slight sniffle. Then, it’s a tiny sob. And finally, it’s full blown sobbing and you find yourself gathering a complete stranger into your arms as she breaks down.

“Shhh,” you murmur rubbing her back. “It’s okay. Everything is okay.”

Reaching behind her you press the emergency break button so the elevator stops running. “Don’t cry, it’s all going to be okay.”

“Bu-but it’s not o-o-okay,” she stutters out. “He doesn’t love me and I’m not sure he ever will, or even can! God I hate Tony! Stupid Tony Stark and his stupid beautiful face.”

“That’s okay,” you soothe in a calm tone. “You’ll be okay.”

“Why do I lie to myself about this?” She thumps her head against your shoulder and her shoulders heave as she tries to calm her crying. “Why do I let myself pretend that I’m okay? That maybe one day he’ll love me?”

You pull her closer and tell her the only thing you can think of. “Because here’s the truth about the truth: It hurts. And we hate it. So we lie.”

“I don’t want to lie,” she whispers as her crying has be reduced to a small leakage of tears and she pulls back from the embrace. “I want to be okay again. I want to be happy.”

“Then be happy,” you reply with a smile as you pull out a tissue and hand it to her. “Start here. Right here, right now. Tell yourself that you’re not going to lie. Be happy and make sure that no matter what you stick to that. Sound good?”

She smiles, “Yeah it does.”

It takes a couple minutes for you to help her put her hair back in order and fix her makeup. You collect your bags off the floor and hand her the purse she dropped. Then you press the button and the elevator starts its descent again. As it lands on the ground floor the two of you get off and just before she turns in the opposite direction you grab her wrist.

You look her in the eyes and again tell her the truth. “Don’t let what he wants eclipse what you need.” Smiling sadly, you glace behind her and see the object of her affection waiting for her. “He’s very dreamy, but he’s not the sun, you are.”

For a moment she stares at you seemingly processing your words, the she blinks. A smile crosses her features as she straightens her back and holds her head higher. “You’re right.”

“I know,” you smirk as you back away.

She turns around and you hear her mutter to herself as she walks toward Tony. “I am the sun.”

Chapter Text

There are moments…

You’re walking your dog, Muffin, down the street chatting on the phone with a friend when it happens. Out of nowhere a skateboarder shoots past and jostles your shoulder causing you to loosen your grip on the leash for a second. During that second another dog appears across the street and Muffin yanks hard on the leash which you promptly let go of in your shock. Muffin takes off down the sidewalk after the other dog and you drop your phone.

“MUFFIN!” you yell as you quickly scoop the phone up and chase after your dog. “GET BACK HERE!”

Dodging other people and managing not to hit anyone in your mad dash after Muffin you don’t see the car coming as you run out into the street until it’s too late. The car rams into you head on and you go down. Then all you see is darkness.

Moments that in a split second your life changes forever

When you finally open your eyes you see a man looming over you and Muffin pawing your leg.

“Muffin,” you whisper before starting to cough.

“Easy there,” says a familiar voice. “Ma’am do you know where you are? You were just hit by a car.”

You wipe your eyes and try to sit up only to be pushed gently back down by large hands. “I think its best you wait for the paramedics to get here.”

“I’m fine,” you reply shaking your head and pushing the man’s hands away. “It wasn’t that bad an accident.” Patting your leg, you grab Muffin’s leash and rise to your feet only to be met with a hysteric driver and a crowd of people. “Holy shit.”

“Sorry ma’am but I’m afraid you’ve drawn a bit of a crowd.” Says the man and you look up to see Steve standing next to you. Blinking you go to open your mouth only to close it and nod. It’s been years, decades even, and you’ve changed a hell of a lot. Besides why would he remember you? He left you and never came back. “I’d like to have you looked over before you dash off. The man hit you pretty hard with his car and your head was bleeding some.”

You reach behind you to feel the sticky part of your head where the wound should be and pull away fingers covered in blood. “It’s okay.” You murmur as you duck your head down and walk toward the oncoming ambulance. “Thanks for all your help.”

“Anytime,” he replies as he proceeds to follow you over until the paramedics cart you away.

“Ma’am!” he calls out and you turn back to see him standing outside the ambulance.

And before you know it…

“Hope you’re alright,” he’s got the same smile. The smile you’ve dreamt about for decades.

You smile in return but somehow it feels brittle on your lips. “Don’t worry about me, Captain.”

You’re somewhere else.

Chapter Text

“At some point, you have to make a decision.” Nat tells you as you swish the wine in your glass, avoiding eye contact. “Boundaries don't keep other people out, they fence you in.”

You sigh and glance around at the women draped in their designer gowns and the men in their high priced tuxes. Normally you didn’t go to Tony’s parties but Nat had found out from Clint that you were in town for longer than a few days and had insisted you come. So you dragged one of the dresses you hadn’t worn in years from the closet and pulled out all the stops when it came to dressing up. Now standing next to Nat you realize how much you hate playing this game. It’s been so long you’d lost the thrill of it.

There was a time when putting on a fancy dress would lead to a fun night out. A chance to laugh, and dance, and smile. There would be endless drinks and soon you’d be giggling like a school girl… But you never fell down. You never left with a stranger. Those two stupid boys, your best friends, would be there to catch you. And carry you. So at the end of the night you’d be wrapped in their arms, safe and loved, and never alone.

“Life is messy,” you say with a huff.

Nat gives a short laugh, “That’s how we’re made.”

She turns and something catches her eye because she smiles that smooth, subtle smile of hers as she stares off behind you. You turn and see her eying up Bruce who has just walked in with the rest of the Avengers. “So you can waste your life drawing lines,” she moves like liquid as she flows around the table to stand beside you. “Or you can live your life crossing them.” She raises one eyebrow.

For a moment you consider telling her the whole truth but as you turn back to the table you know that you never will. “There are some lines that are way too dangerous to cross.”

She shakes her head and grabs your arm as you begin to move away. “I never thought Bruce and I would be anything more than associates, friends. Then one day he comes up to me and puts it all out there. He says, “No matter what you say I’m glad to have told you…” and it was perfect.”

Her face has the faintest tinge of a blush and you have to bite back a laugh as you duck your head. Nat pulls you in close and whispers in your ear, “Here’s what I know. If you're willing to throw caution to the wind and take a chance, the view from the other side...” she trails off as Bruce reaches the two of you and you manage to slip away quietly before she can notice.

Tucking your clutch under your arm you glide through the crowd until you reach the exit. As you turn around you spot Steve and Bucky standing with Nat and Bruce now. Bruce is laughing, Nat is smiling at him, and both Steve and Bucky look content.

You smile, “You were right, Nat. The view – is spectacular.”

Then you turn and walk out the door because you didn’t want to ruin your view. All you wanted to do was look.

Chapter Text

Somehow Phil always knew where to find you. Sure there were months that you’d manage to stay hidden, but eventually Phil would find you… And that asshole always came looking. Thankfully, after the first couple encounters the two of you formed a strong friendship. Well, a strong friend/enemy-ship. He didn’t always agree with your methods and you didn’t always agree with his dedication to SHIELD. Occasionally he’d hunt you down to come teach a few field agents a couple specialized things that only someone (who’d gone where you'd gone, done what you’d done, and seen the things you’d seen) could teach.

“(Y/n),” he greets you with coffee in his hand, which he holds out for you to gulp down. “Ready to get started?”

You grunt in response and chug some more coffee. “Don’t you have actual superheroes to train these guys? Your idol for instance?”

Phil looks down and you can see the tiniest hint of pink in his cheeks as he looks back up at you. “I’m afraid Captain Rogers is busy with other matters at the moment.”

“Sure,” you reply with a sigh. “Unlike the puffed up Avengers I have to do the real work. Aka the training of agents and the actual killing of bad guys.”

“Prepare yourself,” Phil says ignoring your comment about his idol. “There are some real personalities in this group.”

A laugh leaves your lips. “Phil,” you smile as you roll your eyes. “I’m positive I can handle whatever shit these idiots throw my way, and give it back to them twofold.”

A genuine smile crosses Phil’s face and he nods. “You’re right. Go get ‘em.”

With a salute you hand over your empty coffee cup and push the doors open so they bang against the walls. A group of about ten agents looks over at you with curiosity and when they see you confusion sets in. Sure you don’t look intimidating but that’s the whole point… No one ever sees you coming.

“Alright kiddies let’s get started.” You yell beckoning them over. “I’m going to give you a crash course in not dying.”

And that’s how you start.

Several hours later you’ve managed to whip most of them into shape to the point where they’re terrified of you and the respect radiates off them. Most of them are practicing the technique you’ve taught them and sparring, however, one agent just isn’t getting it.

“Come one princess,” you growl as the agent tries once again to replicate the move you’d just shown her. “You’re not putting any effort into it.”

“I am,” she protests but you manage to kick her legs out from under her due to her sloppy stance and she goes down.

You lean over, “You’re not. Now tell me why.”

She sits up and puts her head in her hands. “All I’ve ever wanted was to be a SHIELD agent. To follow in my family’s footsteps and be something great. But I’m not sure how I can compete.”

Reaching down you grab her chin and lift it up. Looking her dead in the eye you see the familiar face of Peggy Carter staring back at you before you blink and it fades away. A smile crosses your lips as you remember the words Peggy once told you. So decades later you repeat them for her family.

“Listen to me and listen well,” you state with a frown. “Have some fire. Be unstoppable. Be a force of nature. Be better than anyone here, and don’t give a damn what anyone thinks.”

She nods with your hand still gripping her chin.

“No matter what anyone says there are no teams here, no buddies.” You continue. “You’re on your own. Be your own.”

You release her chin and pull her back up. “I know you can do this. It’s in you, now let that all out.”

She takes her stance and the two of you begin to spar. Like leaves dancing in the breeze the two of you move effortlessly in your match and the spark that you were trying to ignite in her is clear as she attacks with an intensity that had been lacking. You win but when she lays defeated on the mat you know that she’s got it.

“Well done agent,” you praise. “Seems you’ve got some fire in you after all.”

Ducking her head, she smiles at your praise. “Thank you.”

“Ms. (l/n)!” Phil calls from the doorway. “We have a situation.”

Turning you look over at him and sigh. “When don’t you?”

You walk away giving the class an over-the-shoulder wave you head out. They stare after you with mouths hanging open and eyes staring after you in awe.

Sharon turns to one of the agents standing near her. “(L/n)? Why do I recognize that name?”

The agent is still gaping in shock at the closed door, “Because she’s a legend.”

Chapter Text

Stupid Fury. You march down the hallways still in your dress from the party you were supposed to be attending. A glare was set permanently on your face and the agents you passed all seemed to cringe back from you in fear. Good they should be afraid. They should all be afraid.

When you reach his office you push the door open so hard it slams against the back wall and all eyes turn to you. “Well,” you demand with a snarl. “I’m assuming you sent those idiots after me for a reason?”

The men Fury is talking to scuttle out the door behind you as you stalk forward. “After all I’m not an agent. I don’t work for SHIELD… So this better be a damn good reason.”

“Ms. (l/n) we need you to go extract a couple of our most sensitive assets.” Fury doesn’t sugarcoat anything.

You cross your arms. “Who?”

“Natasha Romanova and Clint Barton,” he states. “They were captured during what we mistakenly presumed was a routine mission. We need them retrieved before their teammates find out and this becomes an international issue.”

“Just me?”

“Just you.”

You scowl at him some more and watch the amused smirk on Fury’s face. Then you go over to the window and peer out at the beautiful sunny day. “I guess I’ll do it,” you huff and then turn to Fury with a mild smile. “After all, it’s a beautiful day to save lives.”


The plane ride is quick and soon you find yourself in the heart of the enemy’s hideout with alarms going off and men with guns hot on your heels. Your heart is pounding, yet like always you feel no fear only intense freedom. Enemy after enemy falls by your hands and soon you’re surrounded by dead bodies and panting. Smiling, you wipe your brown and head deeper into the lion’s den. This is what your life has become.

The thrill of the chase.

The desire to save people.

The intense need to feel like you’ve made a difference… Even if it kills you.

Sometimes you feel like the end would be more fun than the chase.

Skidding to a stop before a locked door you make quick work of it and enter to find both Clint and Nat looking worse for the wear. “We’ve got to go,” you say helping Clint stand as he cradles his obviously cracked ribs.

Nat has a haunted look in her eyes but grabs his other arm to hoist over her shoulder. “Fury called you in?”

You don’t answer her, “Head down this hallway and turn left until you get outside. The jet should be half a mile through the trees. I’m going to go play distraction.”

“Don’t get yourself killed,” Clint mumbles.

Heaving a sigh, you slip out from supporting him. “Don’t worry birdie, I won’t.” You give them both a little wave before running off in the opposite direction a laugh spilling from your lips at the chaos to come.


It’s weeks later before you get a call from Fury again. This time the mission hits much closer to home, and you feel a curl of regret at what you’re going to do. As your car pulls up in front of the beautiful country home you can feel the ache in the pit of your stomach. Getting out of the car is one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done, but you do it. Each step up the porch steps take a lifetime, yet soon you’re knocking loudly on the front door.

Laura answers and gives you a sweet smile, “He’s out back with the kids.”

“Thanks,” you reply as you give her a hug and head through the house. You notice all the finger paintings, and crayon drawings, and each and every toy scattered through the house as you make your way through. This is his escape and you’ve come to ruin it.

The back door swings open and you see the Cooper and Lila are laughing as their father plays with them and it warms your heart. The sound of children’s laughter is like a balm to your soul, and for a moment you simply close your eyes and listen.

“(Y/n),” Clint says breaking your reverie as you open your eyes. He’s frowning but still motions for you to take a seat on the porch swing.

For a while you both sit in silence, watching the kids play.

“Why do we even try when the barriers are so high and the odds are so low?” His expression is so broken and you reach over and grasp his hand tightly in yours. “Why don’t we just pack it in and go home?... It would be so, so much easier.”

You lay your head on his shoulder, “It’s because in the end, there’s no glory in easy. No one remembers easy. They remember the blood and the bones and the long agonizing fight to the top.”

“And that is how you become legendary?” Clint asks a teasing note to his voice.

You don’t reply then… But later as you stand poised to jump off another plane, headed off on another mission, that’s when it hits you. Laughing, you wipe away a tear, “Yeah, Clint, this is how you become legendary.”

And then you jump.